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WASHINGTON -- President Obama -- in mourning the death of poet and author Maya Angelou -- remembered her as "one of the brightest lights of our time."
In 2011, Obama awarded Angelou with America's highest civilian honor, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, for her prose and poetry, which spoke to the conscience of the nation.
And around the cultural heart of Washington, Angelou was remembered as the rare figure whose work was scholarly and accessible.
"In some ways, Maya Angelou was really the voice of a generation," said Lonnie Bunch, the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Her many contributions can be found in the forthcoming National Museum of African American History and Culture, currently under construction on the National Mall.
"She had been someone we had spoken to, who cared about this museum and really wanted to make sure that this was a place that would tell the full story of the African-American experience," Bunch said.
Angelou's influence is also evident at National Museum of African Art, where she served as honorary chair of the museum's national campaign.
"Among the many reasons that I think we all so treasure Dr. Maya is that she was a truth teller," said Johnnetta B. Cole, the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.
Cole's office shelf is lined with signed copies of Angelou's books. She says she was a close friend.
"I was thinking earlier about how many girls there are -- especially African-American, but not exclusively African-American girls -- named Maya. Why? Because their mamas wanted them to understand that they could grow up to walk with that kind of dignity, to think with that kind of creativity and to love so broadly," Cole said.
- See more at: http://rochester.twcnews.com/content/news/742297/angelou-s-impact-to-be-felt-for-generations/#sthash.ZnVFRmnD.dpuf